Richard Brinsley Sheridan And The Rivals

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Richard Brinsley Sheriadan's Life. To say that Richard Brinsley Sheridan had an easy life without a lot of problems would be a stretch. Richard Brinsley Sheridan had his fair share of problems in his life time. They included family problems, financial problems, and career problems.

Sheridan wasn't a one profession guy. He had many professions including, playwright, theatre manager, and politician.Richard Brinsley Sheridan was born in Dublin Ireland on October 30th, 1751, to Thomas and Frances Sheridan. His father worked as an actor, theatre manager and teacher (Hare, Arnold 252-271).

His mother was a playwright and novelist. Richard was sent to Harrow School for his education. He was very unhappy there, because his father did not give him money or let him come home on holidays. At the age of seventeen Richard left Harrow. He was unable to go to a university because of lack of finances, so he went back to live with his family in Bath.

He was given a tutor and had daily elocutions lessons with his father. ("Richard Brinsley Sheridan"). In 1770 Bath started to become a more and more popular place to visit because of its hot springs and other attractions. Richards's father then started "Attic Entertainments" which was a show that included oratories as well as music.

Thomas Sheridan hired Thomas Linely, the best musician in Bath, and his family to perform in "Attic Entertainments". The children of the Linley and Sheridan families became good friends and turned to each other for help when they didn't understand the show business around them. Richard soon fell in love with Elizabeth Linley, the beautiful oldest daughter of Thomas Linley. Elizabeth Linely was a very talented singer and had many men seeking after her. Richard eventually married Elizabeth in 1773, after an escape mission to get out of marrying a man that she did not want to marry and Richard fighting Thomas Matthews for the right to marry Elizabeth. (Hare, Arnold 252-271)Richard decided, soon after the two were married, that as a "gentleman" he could not let his wife be a professional singer so Elizabeth only sang in private from then on.

Since she was not singing any more Richard had to find some source of income fast. He started to write his first plays in 1775. The plays he wrote included The Rivals, St. Patrick's Day, and The Duenna. (Hare, Arnold 252-271). The Duenna did very well at one of London's most popular theatres.

The manager was stepping down so it seemed right that Sheridan take his job and bought a share of the theatre partnership with others. Sheridan went into debt for his share of the theatre. This started his long struggle with finances. After he had a slow start Sheridan's theatre management career started to take off in 1777 when he wrote his own version of Sir John Vanbrugh's The Relapse. A year later one of his works, The School for Scandal, was considered genius.

In the next two years he wrote two fabulous pieces, The Camp, and The Critic. These were his last two plays before he took a twenty year break from writing. The only writing he did in that twenty year period was modifying other works or just doing small fragments of a piece.(Hare, Arnold 252-271). In 1792 Elizabeth, his first wife died tragically.

In 1795 he remarried to Esther Jane. After she died, he remarried yet again to Caroline Henriette nee Callander who became a great writer herself. (Sheridan, Richard Brinsley.)In 1780 Richard Brinsley Sheridan was elected to parliament and started yet another career in politics. He entered parliament as a "Whig politician" for Stafford.

He was sponsored by the Duchess of Devonshire and Charles James Fox. At the time it was rumored that he had bribed the Duchess to support him, but he made his first speech to defend himself and the accusations were put to rest. (Sheridan, Richard Brinsley). Sheridan was said to be one of the best speakers in all of parliament.

During the impeachment trial of Warren Hastings he made several speeches that were long and showed his great talent of public speaking. (Durant, Jack D. 397) He also made another outstanding speech when the "Whig" party was breaking up during the French revolution. It argued that the French should be able to settle their constitution and manage their government in a manner they decided. In 1806 he was appointed to be treasurer of the Navy.

After Fox died Sheridan became in charge of representing Westminster. He represented Westminster until 1807 when he lost the election. He came back to parliament to represent Ilchester until 1812, when he could not win a seat or buy a seat in parliament, and had no one to support or help him.

As he lost his seat in parliament he also lost his security of not being arrested by his creditors. His last days were not pleasant as he was harassed by creditors. He died in 1816 miserable and destitute.(Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)).

Overview / Summary of The Rivals

The Rivals was the first play Richard Brinsley Sheridan's wrote. He did not intend for the play to be autobiographical, but he used many events that had recently happened to him as a basis for events in this play. ( Hare, Arnold 252-271) The first performance of The Rivals was not well liked, because of its length and bad acting by the actor in the lead role. (Sheridan, Richard Brinsley). Sheridan then revised the play, and it was back on the stage in eleven days.

The Rivals was successful in its second opening. (Hare, Arnold 252-271).The Rivals first act is centered on Captain Jack Absolute, the son of Sir Anthony Absolute and his relationships with his father and Lydia Languish. Jack Absolute comes to Bath to see the beautiful and wealthy Lydia Languish, except Jack Absolute had disguised himself as a poor man named Ensign Beverly. Lydia is excited about breaking the rules and possibly eloping with Mr. Beverly. Jack knows that if they elope, she will loose at least two thirds of her inheritance.

Her aunt, Mrs. Malaprop, who is also her guardian does not approve of the marriage. Lydia's aunt then found out that she was secretly seeing Beverly and grounded Lydia to Mrs. Malaprop's house so she could keep an eye on her. Julia, a friend of Lydia's tries to help Lydia get over Beverly, but Lydia decides that she will marry Beverly anyway.

Meanwhile Mrs. Malaprop is having her own romance, with Sir Lucius O'Trigger under the false name of Delia. Lucy, Mrs. Malaprops maid, who is also the messenger between O'Trigger and Mrs. Malaprop p has been telling O'Trigger that Delia is really Lydia and not Mrs. Malaprop. The plot starts to get even more interesting when Sir Anthony shows up in Bath and proposes an arranged marriage for Lydia, and his son, Jack Absolute. Mrs. Malaprop immediately goes to Lydia and tells her to forget about Beverly and insists that Lydia will marry Jack Absolute. Lydia was very upset about this because she did not know Jack Absolute was really Ensign Beverly. Sir Anthony tells his son about the arranged marriage he has planned for his son. Jack is very angry that his father has arranged a marriage and did not tell him. Jack's friend, Faulkland, comes and tells Jack about how he is engaged to Julia, Lydia's friend.

Faulkland is in love with Julia, but is convinced Julia would not be faithful to him. When Jack finds out his match is Lydia, he goes to his father and apologizes. They then go to meet with Mrs. Malaprop. ( When Jack and his father are speaking with Mrs.

Malaprop, she is pleased with his character and believes he is a good match for her niece.Jack tells Mrs. Mallaprop that she should let Beverly and Lydia get ready to elope and then have Jack step in and take Lydia. She thinks this is a good idea also. Lydia finds out that "Beverly" is really Jack and tells her aunt that she will only marry Beverly.

Bob Acers, a man, who is also in love with Lydia, finds out that Lydia is only interested in Beverly and is told by O'Trigger that he should challenge his rival to a dual. Mr. Acers writes a note and challenges Beverly to a dual that very night. O'Trigger then goes searching for Captain Absolute to challenge him to a dual because he thinks that he is his rival for Delia. Sir Absolute insists on taking Jack to Lydia's home to introduce the two of them.

When Lydia sees Jack she realizes that he is really Beverly and is upset because she was being lied to regarding his true identity and declares that she will never have a relationship with "Beverly".Jack is upset about what happened with Lydia and tells Faulkland about the upcoming dual for her. When they all arrive at the dual Mr. Acers finds out that his real rival is Jack Absolute and refuses to fight him but O'Trigger then wants to fight Jack Absolute when the women and Sir Anthony Absolute arrive.

O'Trigger finds out that Delia is really Miss Mallaprop and is not happy. Lydia forgives Jack, and O'Trigger apologizes for wanting to have a dual with him. Faulkland and Julia soon find out that they both love each other and want to get married right away.

The play ends with the couples finding true love and living happily ever after. (

Critical Analysis


Events of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's life, the time period he lived in, and other literature and plays all influenced Sheridan as he wrote The Rivals. His life was a big influence. Elements of the romance in the plan mirror his romance with Elizabeth Linley.

One example of this is how he was from a lower social status that Elizabeth. This is extremely similar to how Lydia was in love with "Ensign Beverly" even though he was 'poor'. Another event in the play which is very similar to his life is how he had to duel twice with Thomas Matthews for Elizabeth and how his characters were going to duel for the love of Lydia and 'Delia'. (Hare, Arnold 252-271)The time in which he lived also had a lot of influence on his writing of the play. At the time he wrote this play comedies were starting to become more and more popular. He also used a French technique which was adding an afterpiece after the play. (Hare , Arnold 252-271).

The people who came to his show had a big influence because on the night of the premier it was not well liked and he had to go back and change it so it would be more accepted by everyone. ( Thomas Harrison also had an influence on the play because without his encouragement, Richard Brinsley Sheridan may have never written the play in the first place. (Hare, Arnold 252-271).Literature and other plays also influenced how Richard Brinsley Sheridan wrote the play and developed characters. Sheridan could have gotten an idea for the character of Mrs. Malaprop from Henry Fieldings book Joseph Fieldings. Fielding's character was named Mrs.

Slipslop. They are a lot alike because both of them can be called a "mighty affecter of hard words."( The Rivals, a CurtainUp Berkshire Review).

Main Themes

In The Rivals, some of the main themes are true love overcoming obstacles, rivalry, and forgiveness. True love overcoming obstacles is shown through out this entire play. One of the most apparent examples is Lydia and 'Ensign Beverly' or Captain Jack Absolute. These two are in love and go through obstacles and in the end come out stronger and more in love. Some of the things they had to go through were, trying to secretly elope, Lydia not knowing Jack's real identity, and having another man (Bob Acres) be pursuing Lydia.

Another example of true love overcoming is, Faulkland and Julia. Faulkland and Julia go through many ups and downs, they are betrothed but Faulkland still doesn't believe that Julia loves him. Then Faulkland tries to test her love by telling her that he is going to run away, so she decides she want to go with him and get married but even then he still doesn't believe that she loves him.Rivalry is a major theme in this book, hence the name The Rivals.

This is a theme in the play because it seems like in almost every situation there is some type of rivalry. It is usually family rivalry like Mrs. Malaprop and Lydia , or it is rivalry for love like Mr. Acres and 'Ensign Beverly'.

The Rivalry shown in the play is sometimes resolved with a quick apology, and in other cases the resolution was a duel. ( other theme that is apparent in this book is forgiveness. Forgiveness plays a key role in how the play ends. If Lydia had not forgiven Jack for lying to her about his true identity the ending would have been completely different.

Bob Acres also forgives Jack and does not end up dueling him for Lydia because he realizes that would be childish. In the situation of Faulkland and Julia, their love would have gone nowhere if Julia did not forgive Faulkland for not trusting her and trying to test their relationship.

Stylistic Devices

The stylistic devices used in The Rivals were satire, foil characters and irony. One of the most obvious devices that Richard Brinsley Sheridan used in The Rivals was satire. (Hare, Arnold 252-271). Satire is a literary tool that is used to ridicule or mock people for their decisions or actions. (Stein, Jess 1171).

Sheridan used characters as a form of satire. He may have used Mrs. Malaprop to mock the women who were now starting to be highly educated. He did this by having her use words incorrectly because they sounded similar. This is called malapropism, named after Mrs. Malaprop. (Stein, Jess 809). He also used the character of Lydia to satire the young romanticist girls that did not think but only acted off their feelings. (Hare, Arnold 252-271).The next Stylistic Device that Richard Brinsley Sheridan used in The Rivals was foil characters. Foil characters are characters that compare and contrast each other. An example from the play would be Jack Absolute and Lydia, because Jack is very realistic and Lydia is the romantic one. Sheridan also foils O'Trigger and Mr. Acres because O'Trigger still wants to duel even when he finds out Jack Absolute is not even his rival. When Mr.

Acres finds out that his rival is someone different from who he thinks it was, he does not want to duel over a lady. (Hare, Arnold 252-271).Irony is when something happens that is opposite or different from what was expected to happen. Irony is shown in this play in multiple forms. Sheridan used irony to make this play comical and interesting. One example of irony is how Jack Absolute disguises himself as a poor man to get the attention of Lydia. This is ironic because usually people try to look like they have more money than they really do to get someone's affection.

Irony is also apparent when Faulkland thinks that Julia will not be faithful to him. This is ironic because usually it is the girl that worries that the guy will not stay faithful.


Richard Brinsley Sheridan did a very good job of building his characters and having every one of them contribute to the plot. Since this was the first play he had written he used some classic characters that he knew everyone would enjoy. (Hare, Arnold 252-271). Mrs. Malaprop made this play famous for her inability to use words that sounded the same correctly.

She also contributed to the plot significantly by trying to control Lydia's love life and having her own affair under the false name of Delia.Lydia, Mrs. Malaprop's niece is the female lead. She is a wealthy seventeen year old that is young and in love.

She loves entertaining the idea of eloping with her Ensign Beverly her love. Lydia contributes to the plot by refusing to marry Jack Absolute and deciding that she will only marry Ensign Beverly.Ensign Beverly is really Jack Absolute disguised as a poor newcomer to the town. This main character with an alias complicates the plot. Jack Absolute is the son of Sir Anthony Absolute that is told he must marry Lydia and is challenged to a duel for her.Other minor characters contributing to the plot include, Sir Anthony is Jack Absolute's dad that proposes this arranged marriage between Jack and Lydia to Mrs.

Malaprop. O'Trigger is who Delia or Mrs. Malaprop is having a written love affair with. O'Trigger thinks that Delia is Lydia. He also tells Bob Acres that he should challenge Ensign Beverly to a duel for Lydia's love.

O'Trigger himself challenges Jack Absolute to a duel for 'Delias' love because he knows that Jack is going to marry Lydia and he thinks that Delia is Lydia not Mrs. Malaprop.Bob Acres is a nice country fellow who was pursuing Lydia for a wife and challenges Ensign to a duel but then backs out when he finds out that Ensign is really his friend Jack Absolute. Faulkland is a friend of Jack's that is engaged to Julia and has cold feet.

He contributes to the plot by talking to Jack and telling him that the girl that Jack's father wants him to marry is Julia.Julia is one of Lydia's friends and tries to talk Lydia out of loving Ensign but it didn't work and so Lydia tells her aunt that she will not marry whoever she has arranged for her to marry. (

Test Over Richard Brinsley Sheridan and The Rivals

Name _________________Date__________________Directions: Match the characters to the most correct description.____ Sir Anthony Absolute____ Captain Jack Absolute____ Faukland____ Bob Acres____ Sir Lucious O'Trigger____ Lydia Languish____ Mrs. Malaprop____ Julia Melvillea. rich young heiress that is in love with Ensign Beverlyb. Ensign Beverlyc. in love but is sabotaging their relationship with distrustd.

Deliae. writing to 'Delia' but does not know who 'Delia' really isf. wealthy and trying to marry off their childg. proposes a duel and then backs out of the duel.h. a friend that tries to give relationship advice but is having problems of their own.Multiple Choice, circle the most correct answer1. Which one of these was NOT one of Sheridan's professions?a. playwrite

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